Google may have cancelled their New York event due to Hurricane Sandy but they still unveiled the new Nexus devices to the world and at a price that is a clear shot across the bows of the competition.
Google Nexus 4
The Nexus 4 is a thoroughbred smartphone running Android 4.2 which is still called Jellybean. The phone is made by LG and features a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro chip running at 1.5Ghz with 2GB RAM which is the very best combination of hardware to power a phone that is available now.
LG have packed a 4.7 inch 1280-by-768 pixel display which is the highest quality phone display on sale in Europe and the US right now. The phone is made of glass on both sides and has a 8-megapixel camera on the back and a front 1.3-megapixel camera.
Astoundingly the 8GB variant of the phone is available for £239 unlocked in the UK direct from Google and the 16GB version is £279. That makes the Nexus 4 around half the price of the Samsung Galaxy S3 but with superior specifications in almost every way and with more powerful software.
Google Nexus 10
Nexus 10 continues the amazing price points with the 10.1-inch tablet which has a better than iPad Retina display resolution of 2560-by-1600 pixels at 300 pixels-per-inch coming in at £319 for 16GB. The Samsung manufactured tablet has a Exynos 1.7GHz dual-core ARM A15 based processor and also packs 2GB RAM which is again superior in power to even the new fourth-generation iPad.
Android 4.2 Jellybean
The new Nexus 4 and Nexus 10 aren’t just new Android devices — they’re showcases for a new version of Android. Google’s calling Android 4.2 “a new flavor of Jelly Bean” to reflect its essential similarity to Android 4.1, but there are some major new features in the mix.
The highlight is support for Miracast, an industry-standard Wi-Fi display sharing protocol that allows new devices like the Nexus 4 to stream audio and video to TVs. (Think AirPlay with broad industry support.)
Miracast boxes for existing TVs are expected to go on sale from a variety of companies soon, and Google expects them to cost well under $99. And Miracast will soon be built directly into TVs, which is pretty exciting — LG’s already committed to building it into all of its 2013 smart TVs.
The technology worked quite well in our demo of Android 4.2 on a Nexus 4, and Google says developers can use each screen independently for big-screen gaming and other apps.
Android 4.2 also includes a new gesture typing keyboard — you just slide your finger between each letter in a word and the keyboard figures out what you’re trying to type. It’s a lot like Swype, but it seemed a little bit faster and more accurate in our brief demo, and words are displayed above your finger as you move, so it’s a little easier to know what’s going on. The feature works well with Google’s SwiftKey-like auto-prediction, which provides a list of words it thinks you might type next has you type — simply swiping “good” automatically predicts “morning,” for example. It all makes one-handed typing extremely easy, although we’re sure SwiftKey and Swype won’t be too pleased.
Google’s also using some of its Street View camera techniques for a new Android 4.2 panorama mode called Photo Sphere. The camera prompts you to line up and take overlapping shots of a scene, which it then stitches together to make an immersive panorama — just like Street View. You can view the resulting image as a flat file, but Android 4.2 and Google+ have built-in Photo Sphere viewers that let you move things around. (The file format is just regular .jpg with some embedded XML, so anyone can build a viewer, not just Google.) It’s impressive stuff.
Android 4.2 also add multiple user support on tablets for easier sharing — each user gets their own apps and data. It’s cleverly done: if one user has already downloaded an app, the other users don’t have to redownload anything to install it. Google showed us Bad Piggies running on one user account with saved levels and scores; when the other user installed the app, it appeared instantly in a completely fresh state. Apps are backgrounded when you switch away from an account — they can complete certain tasks like downloads but are otherwise mostly shut down. You can’t have a music player running in the background from one account while using another account, for example. Overall, it’s a well thought-out solution to the problem of sharing a single tablet with multiple people.
Other notable improvement in 4.2 include a “Daydream” mode that’s essentially a screensaver, the ability to take actions directly from expanded notifications, and a number of accessibility improvements, including the ability to zoom in on any part of the screen. Widgets are now supported on the lockscreen, and you can swipe directly into the camera, which is a huge improvement. And Gmail’s been added as a data source for Google Now, which has a number of new cards.
Here’s the full list of new features:
- Photo Sphere panorama photos
- Gesture typing on the keyboard
- Lockscreen improvements, including widget support and the ability to swipe directly to camera
- Expandable notifications with that let you take actions directly
- Message zooming in Gmail with the ability to reflow text automatically
- Daydream screensavers
- Accessibility improvements: triple-tap to magnify the entire screen, pan and zoom with two fingers. Speech output and Gesture Mode navigation for blind users.
- Miracast support for wireless display sharing
- Google Now can use Gmail as a data source for new cards, including improved flight tracker, hotel and restaurant reservations, movie and music recommendations. Photo Spot card recommends interesting places to take photos based on your location.
We are really excited about the new Nexus devices and will have full reviews soon.